The best fast food restaurants in the US

The best fast food restaurants in the US Just because it’s called ‘fast food’ doesn’t mean it has to be ‘inferior food.’ From iconic originals like Taco Bell’s burrito-quesadilla hybrid Quesarito to reliable standards like a simple fresh-made burger, fast food restaurants offer an array of hand-held goodies that will satisfy your hunger fast. Now more than ever, the options are dizzying, and no matter where you live you likely have dozens of options within a short drive.

The best fast food restaurants in the US
The best fast food restaurants in the US

The best fast food restaurants in the US

The best fast food restaurants in the US Perhaps you seek out the absolute best restaurants in America, be it Mexican, Italian, French or some other cuisine type. But sometimes there’s nothing better than a pit stop at one of the best fast food restaurants in the country. Whether hitting up the drive-thru for a quick meal or a hangover cure, there are many worthy occasions when fast food eats (including burger joints, chicken chains, Americanized Mexican spots and other fast food favorites) are the way to go.

So which fast food chain is the best? Here are our favorites, and you’re sure to find one in your neighborhood. If not, start planning your next road trip so you can visit these spots along the way while checking out the best places to visit in the US (and if you can find a good fast food joint, our list of the best gas station snacks will help).

The best fast food restaurants in the US
The best fast food restaurants in the US

1. In-N-Out

There’s nothing clandestine about the ‘secret’ menu at In-N-Out—it even has a page on the Cali chain’s website. But the not-so-covert items still garner a cult-like following by those who make the pilgrimage out west for smashed burgers and animal-style fries. Besides, who can argue with the tastes of The Dude from The Big Lebowski? 

2. Zaxby’s

Speaking of fried chicken, Zaxby’s is one of the rulers of the roost—at least in the South. Dreamed up by two childhood pals on a Statesboro, Georgia basketball court, the comfort-food spot slings out crispy bird in a 

It’s all about the spice, people. Popeyes’ hush-hush blend imbues Cajun flavor into many of its beloved dishes, from the signature fried chicken and creamy mashed potatoes to those generously-seasoned fries. It’s no wonder the New Orleans-born restaurant has amassed an uber-passionate following. 

More than 36% of American adults ate fast food on a given day between 2013 and 2016, according to a report on fast food consumption by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and there’s no reason to think that our intake has decreased.

However much we might claim to disdain the chains that purvey fast food on nutritional and/or aesthetic grounds, the fact is that a lot of us find it pretty irresistible.

As with most indulgences, the best game plan for enjoying it is simply not to indulge too much. Eating fast food every day is clearly not a good strategy for a long and healthy life. On the other hand, will an occasional cheeseburger or pizza or bucket of fried chicken kill you? Probably not.

If and when you do join the line at McDonald’s or pull up to the Sonic Drive-In window, what should you choose? That’s a matter of personal taste, of course, and there’s plenty of variety out there, even beyond the obvious. In addition to their core menus, pizza chains sell chicken wings; burger chains sell fish sandwiches; doughnut chains sell bagels.

The iconic items on this list are often the things most often ordered, but sometimes they’re the original offerings that helped make the chain’s reputation – or just the ones that people are most likely to bring to mind when the name of the chain is mentioned.

All these iconic foods (and in two cases drinks) are items that the operations in question do particularly well. That certainly doesn’t mean that that they’re among the choices health experts would recommend – these are the healthiest food options at every fast food restaurant. 

1. McDonald’s

• French fries

You could argue that the Big Mac – perhaps the ultimate fast-food burger, with its double patty, sesame bun, American cheese, and pickles, lettuce, and onions – is the icon here. Or maybe it’s the Egg McMuffin, which launched the breakfast sandwich craze when it was introduced back in 1972. But the one thing almost everybody seems to agree on – even people who’d never admit to eating a McDonald’s burger – is that the fries are great, and maybe reason enough in themselves to pull into the drive-thru.

Their secret? Good potatoes, to begin with. But the spuds are treated with dextrose and sodium acid pyrophosphate for color, various preservatives, and “natural beef flavor.” Whatever they do to them, it seems to work.

2. Starbucks

• Pumpkin Spice Latte

Starbucks is famous for its many specialty coffee drinks, most of all its blended Frappuccinos and its various lattes. But the one item most strongly associated with the chain – the one it first offered in 2004, and the one that has gone on to become its most copied creation by far – is the autumnal specialty called the Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL. The day on which this drink, with its cinnamon-based spice mix, goes on sale each year is eagerly anticipated, and Starbucks is said to sell as many as 350 million cups of it annually.

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